On Saturday 28/11/2011 I had the pleasure of attending a Mountain Bike Training Course run by a chap called Gary Shipp on behalf of SusSAR. These courses have been running for about the last four years and were started after three mountain bikes were donated to the team by the family of a misper.
The course is a bespoke training package designed to produce riders who are confident on a bike and how that can be integrated into a SAR situation. Gary is a former member of SusSAR and is the driving, or should that be riding, force behind the training package, he's since moved away but comes back once in a while to deliver this course and does it all out of the kindness of his heart
In my youth I did quite a bit of biking around the villages in Durham and Northumberland where I grew up, normally downhill stuff involving falling off and multiple contusions. I’ve cycled on and off ever since, including a course at work, but I’ve certainly never been what could be called a serious cyclist.
The venue for the event was Litlington Village Hall in deepest darkest Sussex on the edge of Friston Forest. Why there? Because Friston Forest holds a secret, it contains the 1986 World Championship Mountain Bike Course and is therefore the perfect place to give three, middle aged, (and I'm being generous there) blokes’ heart attacks on two wheels.
The day started gently enough with tea, doughnuts and a tour of the bikes (Specialized Hard-tails…..see I almost sound like I know what I’m talking about). The basic gist being how to ensure the bike is safe to get on and ride, In fact everything we would do over the day, would be aimed at two things,
1. Our own safety.
|Dropping into the Buttock Clencher|
2. That nothing would distract from the search.
Before long we were out on the bikes, Gary told us that the aim of the afternoon session was to raise our technical riding skills and have some fun. Almost immediately, as we crunched gears and strained at the pedals up the first incline, I realised my CV fitness was nowhere near adequate for the day. But after every climb came the payoff, a fun, sometimes frightening, always exhilarating descent through the trees and very soon the skills of my youth came back. The highlight of the day was a very steep descent with a long, fast run out, the path strewn with slippery leaves and shot through with roots was a real buttock clencher. As the day wore on and the ascents became fewer and the descents more frequent I really began to enjoy myself, even as the light began to fade the enjoyment did not.
After a return to the village hall for a little more maintenance we set out in the pitch black on a simulated search, the bikes now equipped with incredibly powerful lights from Exposure Lights, which made a huge difference. After a couple of hours of putting it all into practice we found our missing person, the dashing and handsome (his words) John Griffiths, crouched in a bush, and it was tea and medals all round.
Huge thanks to Gary for a great day; he shared his enthusiasm and expertise with us for the price of a doughnut and even gave me the shirt (well, Jacket) off his back.
As well as being a top chap and sometime MTB instructor, Gary also runs a great website Car Free Walks.